x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAB scores with Barca partnership

Business of sport: United Arab Bank has sealed what it calls a 'priceless' deal to sponsor Barcelona FC.

Lionel Messi and company have a new sponsor in Sharjah-based United Arab Bank. Lluis Gene / AFP
Lionel Messi and company have a new sponsor in Sharjah-based United Arab Bank. Lluis Gene / AFP

United Arab Bank is hoping to bring some Messi magic to the country's financial sector after striking a three-year partnership with Barcelona FC.

It is the latest in a string of sporting sponsorships and endorsements to be agreed by UAE corporations this year as they seek to raise their profile and broaden their appeal among customers.

The alliance confirms UAB as Barcelona's exclusive financial partner in the UAE for three years ending in July 2016. The bank is hoping to tap into the UAE's passion for football with a range of customised Barca themed products.

UAB intends to send 1,000 customers to watch Barcelona play live in the Camp Nou over the next three years, having created a dedicated website for the promotion.

Speaking at the conference to announce the deal Paul Trowbridge, the UAB chief executive, declined to specify the value of the sponsorship deal.

"It's priceless," he said. "The sponsorship is specifically for the UAE and there is a very significant fan club here. That gives us an opportunity to connect and identify with many of the people who can be our customers."

UAB recently reported record half-year profits of Dh260 million, representing a 35 per cent increase over a year earlier, the bank said.

UAE nationals are a big part of the bank's customer base.

With Emiratis making up some 43 per cent of new customers and with Barcelona ranking among the most popular international clubs in the country, it was a natural fit.

"We wanted another linkage point to be able to reach out rather than just giving a ticket away," said Mr Trowbridge "It's a natural progression if you look at the history of Barcelona we are similar: we are long-established, but recently made a strategic decision to be in a different league, we have gone from being the smallest player out of 54 banks to a mid-range player and they have become the most successful football team in the world with the world's best player."

The bank's move comes on the back of some high profile sporting sponsorships from UAE companies. Emirates Airline began its sponsorship of Barcelona's biggest rivals Real Madrid this season, paying US$39 million per season for the honour.

Emaar benefited from the global appeal of Formula One to reinforce its position as an international developer. Last week it announced a sponsorship of the F1 Lotus team for two years. Lotus scored a win with its driver Kimi Raikkonen at last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.